Director Guy Maddin's quasi-silent film oeuvre isn't for everyone: His overbearing clichés, old-timey ways, and obsession with pseudo-sexual material drive a lot of people up the wall. But his latest film, My Winnipeg, is a "documentary" littered with half-truths and bald-faced lies—and it is a thing of beauty and humor, and easily his most accessible film to date.
In black and white, Maddin captures the haunting loveliness of his hometown of Winnipeg, Manitoba, using old archival stock, grainy footage of his snowy walks around town, and restagings of his childhood to create a love letter about what means to be a Winnipegger. There's also the feeling that he's mixing cold, hard fact with dreamy fiction—call it Maddin's poetic license, or the truth as he sees it. Did the horses from Winnipeg's racetrack really die in the ice after they escaped a fire, frozen in mid panic? Was Maddin really born in the hockey stadium dressing room, only to attend his first hockey game a few days later? Is there really a rich history of homoerotic male beauty pageants in a downtown department store? Frankly, who cares—it's damned good stuff.
My Winnipeg also recreates several historical events from the director's past. At one point, Maddin decides to rent his childhood home to stage scenes from his youth. Hiring actors to play his siblings and using his "real mom" (who's actually played by B-movie queen Ann Savage), Maddin is determined to analyze scenes that shaped his personality, like straightening up the hall runner every morning or watching TV in the living room while lounging on the body of his dead father under the rug. Maddin's fugue state interpretations of fact are so charming that it might just be impossible to enjoy a factual documentary ever again.